Nurses in hospital.

USC College of Nursing Leads the Way to Meet Demand for South Carolina Nurses

Registered nurses comprise the largest segment of the health care workforce globally, and serve on the frontlines of health care delivery and innovation. Nurses have always been in high demand.  However, recent trends and future predictions indicate an ever-growing demand for registered nurses and a short supply, particularly in South Carolina. A recent report by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HRSA) revealed that South Carolina will have the 4th highest shortage across the nation by 2030. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects South Carolina will need 62,500 nurses in 2030, which is 48 percent higher than the approximately 42,000 registered nurses working in South Carolina in 2018. 

Besides an increased supply, there is a demand for a higher educated nursing workforce. Our health care systems are evolving to a value-based care system with an increased focus on patient outcomes and population health. Each year there are advances in technology and diagnostics, health informatics and big data, genetic testing and gene therapies, and other innovations in health care delivery. Telehealth and mHealth are becoming more prominent, as changing demographics and gaps in access to care in our rural communities and with uninsured and underinsured across our state. There are heavy demands placed on the health care system with aging baby boomers and ever-growing prevalence of chronic health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity. Because of these trends, and national research studies that have demonstrated reduced mortality and morbidity in hospital settings with a higher proportion of BSN nurses, the Institute of Medicine and others recommend increasing the number of baccalaureate prepared nurses in the workforce to 80 percent. South Carolina currently has 50 percent of the nursing workforce prepared at the BSN or higher degree. 

As the largest College of Nursing in South Carolina and the first to offer the baccalaureate degree in nursing as early as the 1950s, we continue to pioneer innovations and excellence to meet our state’s demands. Over the past six years, the College of Nursing has increased enrollment in all of our programs by 30 percent, with 1900 students currently enrolled in our undergraduate and graduate programs.  We currently graduate 220-240 BSN students and 110-120 master’s and doctoral students each year. To meet the increased demand, we project to increase our BSN enrollment by another 10 percent next year and will launch an Accelerated Entry into Practice MSN program in 2020, which will further enhance the supply of registered nurses at the bedside.

Our quality is among the highest across the state and nationally, with 100 percent NCLEX pass rate in 2018 with BSN graduates, and a 98-99 percent NCLEX average over the past two years, compared to our state’s 88 percent average. Our Master’s program has been ranked in the top 5 by US News & World Report in the past four years and was ranked the #1 program in the country in 2016. 

In addition to quality and access, we are proud that approximately 70 percent of our BSN graduates remain to work in South Carolina, while 90 percent of our graduate nurses stay in South Carolina, with the majority of these graduates working in rural and/or underserved regions in our state. Those who leave the state typically work in premier health systems across the country, to include Johns Hopkins Hospital, The Mayo Clinic, and others. All of our graduates are employed within 3-6 months of graduation, with the majority having secured positions prior to graduation.

In 2016, we re-established our RN-BSN program as an avenue to increase the supply of baccalaureate prepared nurses in our state. Our RN-BSN 12-month program is completely online and remains one of the most affordable programs in the state. Articulation agreements have been established with regional technical colleges for a seamless transition into the BSN program after completing an associate degree. We provide graduate nursing education programs for advanced practice nursing and executive leadership at the master’s and doctoral levels, along with a PhD in nursing science program. With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Future Nurse Scholars and the Jonas Foundation, we fully fund students seeking a PhD in Nursing Science to generate future nurse scientists and educators.

There are many initiatives going on in the College, and addressing the future health care workforce is critical to our current mission. With 10,000+ alumni, our partners, and our stellar faculty and staff, we will continue to lead the way in improving the health outcomes and equity of all citizens of South Carolina.

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